Welcome down to the paradise city, where we’re pumping At the Gates in our latest quickie.
Alright. How does the blighter play?
Exactly as you might expect, especially if you’re familiar with Civ. You’ll be constructing your clan, learning new professions and skills, expanding your horizons, meeting and fighting other factions, plus loads more.
The game is still in its early-ish stages, mind, so watch out for bugs and crashes (we’ve already had a few of those).
How’s the presentation?
Really lovely, to be honest. The map’s rendered in a beautiful, hand-drawn art style and has neat touches like concealing undiscovered areas under tea-stained map paper. You can add to the pile fabulous character drawings, some solid sound effects, and musical interludes that all round out the charming audiovisual package nicely.
Is it accessible, or do diehards only need apply?
Colonel Indecisive says it’s a little bit of both. Yes, it’s dense, and the opening hours might feel impenetrable to a complete layman, but persevere and you’ll find a decent game full of things to explore and get lost in. At £25, this definitely isn’t for everyone, but it’s worth a punt if you’ve a taste for the turn-based.
Bring on the crash fixes, too, Jon-boy!
Christmastime, beige platters and booze, enough of Dad’s jokes, I’m off for a snooze… It’s that time of year again, folks: tubs o’ Twiglets, too many choccos, and wondering what to get that discerning gamer in your life. Luckily for you, we’ve got that last one covered!
4/5 figgy puddings
Retro-Bit Super Retro-Cade
Well, this one was a real find. Throw the PlayStation Classic away, retire the SNES Mini, and get stuck into an arcade emulation machine with a world of expansion opportunities.
Included in the fabulously decorated box are 90 - yes, 90 - arcade and console titles from the likes of Data East, Irem and Capcom that were popular during the late 80s through to the mid 90s. Add to that two SNES-style controllers, and you have a decent package straight out of the box. The whole thing is worth it for Magical Drop and the SHMUPS alone, if you ask me…
Victory in the mini-console wars is achieved, however, with the ease that one can customise the Retro-Cade, simply by loading games onto an SD card and then banging it in the back. Brilliant!
4.5/5 mince pies
The last time I really got into a strategy game was late 1999, when Command & Conquer launched on my beloved N64. I’ve flirted with Civilisation, and given a cursory glance to Tropico, but Northgard really is up my street.
A good old RTS game set in a Norse world of Vikings, Northgard tasks you and your band of Northmen with plundering a new continent, building bases and conquering foes. You don’t need a roided-up PC to play it either, and it’s ruddy good value at £24 on Steam.
4.5/5 toy viking warships
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Imagine a combo of 80s arcade hit Paperboy and Hipster Whale’s mobile smash Crossy Road, and you’re pretty much there. A pop culture-packed arcade-athon, The Videokid will appeal to people who grew up in that glorious age of gaming, as well as youngsters with a love of all things instant.
It’s under £4 across the platforms, so perfect for stuffing that digital stocking!
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
A charming independent adventure game that provokes memories of many 16-bit, side-scrolling classics, Owlboy possesses gorgeous art, amusing dialogue and a signature mute protagonist. Our personal highlights are the excellent orchestral soundtrack, vast dungeons, big bosses and fun-fuelled flight mechanic - imagine Nights into Dreams funnelled through Nintendo-vision!
4.5/5 pixelated Santas
Will you be picking any of these suggestions up as last minute prezzies? Perhaps you're hoping to receive one yourself? Let us know in the comments below.
Regardless, have a great Christmas and we'll see you back here for more stocking stuffers in 2019!
As we hurtle towards 2019, there’s time for one final quickie of the year, with puzzler The Gardens Between our lucky recipient.
With that in mind, does it come recommended?
If you’re fine with the price (or subscribe to Xbox Game Pass, where it’s available at no extra cost), then yes. The Gardens Between has a gorgeous art style and exemplary soundtrack that blend beautifully with simple, effective gameplay to create one of our favourite sleeper hits of 2018. We’ll definitely be keeping an eye on what developer The Voxel Agents have planned next!
We’re back for another quick one as we get to grips with Overcooked! 2’s new Surf ‘n’ Turf DLC. Are its levels fun in the sun, or all washed up? Join us on a culinary adventure to tropical climes.
Don’t be fooled by the setting - Surf ‘n’ Turf is no vacation.
Challenging? I thought this was supposed to be a holiday resort!
Don’t be fooled by the setting - Surf ‘n’ Turf is no vacation. Aside from the water hazards and infuriating, obstructive conga lines, score limits on levels seem absurdly high.
Even with a fellow Overcooked veteran in tow, we struggled to gather the stars needed to unlock subsequent levels, with plenty of replays required to refine our technique and get near those higher scores.
While mastering levels is, arguably, part of the fun, more casual gamers such as partners and kids may struggle with the opening few levels’ difficulty spike.
Is it a recommended dish?
If you can gather together the two or three capable bodies needed to overcome the higher scores, then yes, it is. It’s cheap, the new setting is a lot of fun, and, if you’re good enough, there’s plenty of content to tuck into.
Welcome, welcome, one and all to a dark and dangerous evening filled with cards, strange characters, initially dense gameplay ideas and bags of longevity. Was ist das? Well, Alexis Kennedy’s new game, Cultist Simulator, of course.
What about the presentation?
We had the game running at highest settings (though can’t imagine there’s a huge difference between presets in this instance), and although there’s not a great deal going on, it’s quite lovely. Both the table and cards have muted, pastel-y colours that really complement the cracking sound effects and music.
It’s nearly £15 quid on Steam; is that too much?
No, not at all. We’ve played our fair share (and more) of overpriced, average indie games, but this really isn’t one of them. The branching narrative paths are a delight and the deep gameplay systems beg for repeat play - if you’ve got a PC, we implore you to have a crack at this mysterious gem.
Stolen Couch Games’ Animal Crossing-inspired life-simulator, Castaway Paradise, hits Xbox One and PlayStation 4 this week, so grab the factor 50 and join us on a trip to warmer climes for our latest quickie.
Fishing, a classic life-sim pastime, is also a little more intuitive in Castaway Paradise, with players able to aim while casting out and use special bait to attract bigger and rarer fish in their quest to top global leaderboards.
Castaway Paradise is an homage to Nintendo’s incredibly popular life-sim series.
Would you recommend it?
Whilst Castaway Paradise doesn’t quite have the level of charm or polish to compete with its original inspiration, the game’s light-hearted nature and sense of progression should be enough to satisfy those looking for an Animal Crossing fix on non-Nintendo platforms.
Wait, no Switch version?
Sadly not, no. Stolen Couch haven’t entirely ruled out a Switch port, but, despite it being a perfect fit for Nintendo’s hybrid console, it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting one any time soon.
With this pair of spiritual Left 4 Dead successors launching almost hand-in-hand on Xbox One, fans of frenetic co-op will no doubt be left pondering where to turn for their latest fix. Whether you’re more immediately drawn to the high fantasy of Vermintide II or the grounded sci-fi of Earthfall, we’ll be assessing how they compare in a few key areas in order to decide which emerges with its hand held high.
Both games are ostensibly similar, though their contexts and wider systems set them apart on all but the surface level.
Vermintide II has no such equivalent, but a much deeper well of customisation options helps to offset the absence, boasting more consistently engaging core combat not necessarily in need of the differentiation. This leads to a more consistent pacing, which can be both a good and a bad thing; all of Vermintide II’s missions are equally exciting, but do less to propel you onwards when you’re sure of what’s to come.
As well as having more tools at your instant disposal - with close-range thwackers outshining their slightly-less-whelming ranged counterparts in this instance - there are also more baddies against which to put them to practice. Combat, which is really at the core of both experiences, is stronger in Vermintide II due to this all round variety and a generally more bloody and impactful implementation.
Value & Longevity
Neither game lasts particularly long in terms of a one-and-done playthrough, so it’s a good job that they’re both designed to be played and replayed ad infinitum. High levels of challenge and moderate randomisation across enemy and item spawns help to ensure repeat ventures remain varied and engaging, though tangible rewards beyond just achievements do give Vermintide II the edge.
The latest in the Warhammer staple also features a greater number of missions, whilst at the same time costing slightly less (if anything at all, should you be an active Xbox Game Pass subscriber), surely awarding it a second straight category? For now, perhaps, but with Earthfall set to receive free campaign DLC in the future it’s quite possible that the tables could turn.
In terms of premium DLC, the pair do offer up optional cosmetics, though, thankfully, you can directly pick your poison instead of gambling on paid loot boxes. While you don’t get much opportunity to appreciate outfits from a first-person perspective, you will enjoy envious looks from online co-op partners, as you’ll want to avoid playing offline with merely adequate bots in either title whenever possible.
Each game weaves a threadbare narrative, acting as all the unintrusive motivation you need to keep busting heads as and when you see fit. In both instances stories are told through character dialogue snippets during gameplay, but to much greater effect in Vermintide, owing to its vibrant cast; while this injects an extra dose of personality, it leaves the survivors of Earthfall free to do the invaluable job of calling out enemy spawns more consistently.
Recognisable ambient and soundtrack cues serve a similar role in both games, in time negating much of the dialogue disparity as you learn to distinguish portions of audio, the dynamic soundscapes ramping up alongside escalating danger as more and more enemies are piped in.
Handling hordes of on-screen models is always a technical challenge, leading both titles to encounter very occasional frame drops, but nothing significant enough to really impact either experience. That’s especially impressive when Vermintide II runs at native 4K resolution on Xbox One X, whereas Earthfall isn’t enhanced at all, creating a clear visual gap for owners of Microsoft’s most powerful console.
Warhammer: Vermintide II
With almost a clean sweep, Vermintide II is clearly the more complete product and the game we’d recommend if you really must chose. If you’re any kind of starved Left 4 Dead fanatic, however, you should definitely consider snapping up both.
A roguelike Arabian Nights adventure from the former BioShock developers at Uppercut Games, City of Brass finds itself on the receiving end of our latest Quickie.
That sounds great, but what about the systems surrounding combat?
Exploring involves some light platforming and plenty of pilfering, as you grab artefacts used to purchase upgrades and services that’ll (hopefully) help you eke closer to making it out of the titular city alive. Initially there’s something slightly cumbersome about the controls on console, especially in comparison to the far more fluid PC version (which also looks noticeably sharper than even the Xbox One X build), but some options menu tinkering and time to adjust should set you straight.
Is it something you’d recommend, then?
Provided you’re willing to spend a little time grappling with those initial control gripes on console, absolutely. City of Brass has an opulent aesthetic and satisfying mechanics that’ll keep you coming back, always met with an engaging new challenge to surmount.
Spiritual successor to PC cult classic The Ship, Murderous Pursuits is the latest sneaky multiplayer murderthon from developer Blazing Griffin, and the latest game to receive our quick look treatment.
How’s the presentation? Do I need a monster PC to run it?
Nope, it runs at a solid 60 FPS with full graphics settings on a GTX 1060 and looks great. The eight playable characters - caricatures, really - are diverse and immediately likeable, while minimalistic menus complement more detailed and bustling in-game environments.
It’s all tied together by narration from Mr. X and a tiptoeing soundtrack that’s charmingly true to the period and genre.
So, would you recommend a stint as Mr. X’s personal hitman?
If Murderous Pursuits sounds intriguing to you, then definitely. Its laser-focused design delivers moreish and tactical fun, but only for as long as the central conceit remains exciting to you. Multiple hours in, win or lose, each match still ends with a smile.
Raiders of the Broken Planet's outlandish design has had us enthralled since the episodic adventure began late last year, so naturally we jumped at the opportunity to interview the team behind it. Game Director and MercurySteam co-owner, Enric Álvarez (@Enric_Alvarez), answered the call and joined us to discuss the game's inspirations, community, future and much more!
With a successful track record for handling legendary third-party properties (Castlevania, Metroid), what prompted MercurySteam to strike out on an independent project?
We are immensely proud of the games we have created for both Konami and Nintendo (you could say MercurySteam is the only true Metroidvania studio!), but Raiders of the Broken Planet is a passion project, and those kinds of projects demand nothing less than total creative freedom in order to keep their essence intact. Working with publishers in the past has made us better game developers, and we are now putting that expertise to use in Raiders of the Broken Planet.
"We are immensely proud of the games we have created for both Konami and Nintendo, but Raiders of the Broken Planet is a passion project, and those kinds of projects demand nothing less than total creative freedom..."
This is the team’s first independent venture - one with a large budget (relatively speaking) and plenty of eccentricities - do you feel like you're taking a bit of a risk?
Risk is like fear: Most people in the industry want to move away from it and that is a perfectly reasonable action to take. However, can you imagine, Indiana Jones running from danger instead of facing it? What a boring movie Raiders [of the Lost Ark] would have been! Maybe the first - and right - question to answer is how confident are you in your own ideas and how capable do you think you are in making those ideas happen. Depending on your honest answer to those questions, then you can properly judge the real risk you are entering into… We felt confident that we could make something exceptional that people would be interested in, despite the risks.
Whilst the team have been active in optimising the game for storefronts (rebranding the free starter campaign, releasing bundles), they’ve been even more committed to in-game updates. How important is it for Raiders to keep evolving over time?
It’s not only important - it’s essential. Raiders of the Broken Planet is an ongoing game, an evolving project. In order to keep the community engaged, you need to update the game regularly. That not only involves launching new campaigns, characters, weapons and skins on a regular basis, but also adjusting the game to your community’s tastes, constantly tweaking and rebalancing characters and missions as they get affected by the new content we add to Raiders of the Broken Planet.
As Raiders’ continued support has illustrated, you take feedback from the community very seriously. Just how important are players and critics in shaping a game under continued development?
Community feedback is the base of the game’s evolution. The best part of the radical redesign that accompanied the third campaign’s launch was a direct answer to the fans’ feedback, potentiating what they liked and getting rid of what they didn’t. We are in contact with players every day, interacting with them on Twitter, Facebook, the official forums or in Discord, and the advice they offer is absolutely brilliant. We can say that Raiders of the Broken Planet is a better game now thanks to them.
Enric discusses the changes implemented in Raiders of the Broken Planet's recent redesign, which you can read our thoughts on here.
Microtransactions are currently a hot-button issue within the industry; from an independent developer’s perspective, just how much has their implementation impacted the project? For example, could the ticket system (which allows players to join friends on premium missions they haven’t purchased) exist in their absence?
Microtransactions are part of most videogames nowadays. We have included them mainly to acquire cosmetic character skins that don’t affect the player’s performance in the game. But our business model is based on offering premium content for a very reasonable price – 9.99€/£/$ per campaign. We also gave away a sizeable part of the game for free, with the Eternal Soldier campaign, as well as introducing the ticket system and the Mission of the Week to allow them to invite friends to give those free to play gamers more freedom and options to explore the Raiders of the Broken Planet world and decide if they want to invest more on it.
With recent changes to the game’s ecosystem, namely halving the cost of every character, has that changed at all?
The introduction of the new progression system has been incredibly well received by the community. Characters are now unlocked as part of said progression, depending on the player’s level. That sets goals for the player to plan their advance through the game, always having something new to achieve. Halving the in-game currency cost of every character was also something our community demanded, and we happily obliged.
How do you feel the audience response towards Raiders has changed over the nearly seven months since it first launched?
Raiders of the Broken Planet has a really strong, committed and proactive core of fans who have been involved with the game since the early beta process. They have seen the game evolve since we launched in September 2017 and kept on playing even if they didn’t agree with all the design decisions that we took. Now, with Hades Betrayal’s launch and the new redesign, they feel that their opinions are being heard, and that we take these very seriously when deciding our next moves and how we’ll take the game forward. Raiders of the Broken Planet is now their game as much as it is ours.
"[Fans] feel that their opinions are being heard, and that we take these very seriously when deciding our next moves... Raiders of the Broken Planet is now their game as much as it is ours."
Can you give us a taster of what to expect from Council Apocalypse, the fourth and final premium campaign in the current Raiders season?
Council Apocalypse will be the final campaign of Raiders of the Broken Planet's first season. Harec and his band of Raiders will be pitted against the Fifth Council, the most calculating and technologically advanced of all the factions fighting for the control of the Broken Planet. As it happened with the previous campaigns, there will be a new Raider to recruit from that faction, Valeria. She will be vital to put an end to the Council’s insidious plans.
Similarly, can you offer any kind of hint as to what to expect after Council Apocalypse? Post-campaign cutscenes have offered some tantalising glimpses into the Broken Planet’s past - could we be in for a prequel season?
Once the players complete Council Apocalypse, the whole picture of the post-credits sequence will be revealed. Is it just an echo of the distant past, or does it have something to do with the future of the Broken Planet? Only time will tell!
Are there more Antagonists or Raiders on the dev team, and who’s the most popular character for each role?
There are an alarmingly high number of Antagonists in the studio. I guess we all like to vent off steam by playing the bad guys and ruining each other’s games! Until recently, Lycus was the character of choice for playing the Antagonist, but Doldren seems to be very popular these days - his special ability to sneak behind his enemies’ backs is just perfect for that role!
Thanks to MercurySteam's José Herráez, and, of course, Enric Álvarez for taking the time to answer our questions!
Keep an eye out for our upcoming Hades Betrayal let's play, and be sure to enter our giveaway for a chance to win one of five Raiders of the Broken Planet - Ultimate Edition PS4 keys by clicking the banner below. The Ultimate Edition bundles all of the episodic shooter’s standalone campaigns alongside five exclusive skins, with now being the perfect opportunity to get involved, as the package is set to exit digital storefronts stage left next week.